Players To Watch: Playoffs Part 1

August 11, 2022
By Daniel Cohen

James Pollard, Philadelphia Phoenix

“Big Game” James Pollard’s switch to O-line this season has been one of the most impactful offensive additions in the entire league. The only player in the AUDL with 75-plus scores and double digit blocks, Pollard has run wild in his primary striker role for the Philadelphia Phoenix this year, repeatedly taking the top of defenses in addition to showcasing a devastating huck game of his own; he completed 23 throws of 40-plus yards in the regular season, fifth most in the league. While many of his offensive numbers rank towards the top of the league, it’s his defensive ability that continues to shine equally bright despite having played just 19 D-points in 2022. Pollard uses his 6’5” frame to consistently earn the disc back after turnovers; he set a career high with 14 blocks this year. Philly’s opponents are converting just under 34 percent of their D-line possessions, the third-lowest rate in the league, and Pollard’s defensive presence has played a big role in keeping the Phoenix in games. His impact on both sides of the disc will be critical in the Hotbirds’ first playoff game since 2013.

Rowan McDonnell, DC Breeze

Rowan McDonnell returned to form this season after playing a more conservative, handler-heavy role in 2021. Rowan looked notably more aggressive from Week 1 onward as both a thrower and receiver, topping last season’s throwing yardage total by over 1,000 despite completing nearly 100 fewer throws. And after recording 100 or more receiving yards in just four games last year, Rowan topped 100 in all but two games this season. He’s the quintessential piece of DC’s “true hybrid” offense, and while the offense doesn’t exclusively depend on him the way it needed to in 2018 and 2019, he still takes charge on must-convert possessions and recorded more touches than anyone on the team in the regular season. In the two games against Philly this year, Rowan amassed over 1,000 yards of offense and completed 87-of-90 throws (96.7 percent) with 12 total scores. An in-rhythm Rowan is Philly’s worst nightmare if they intend to keep pace with the Breeze offense.

Xavier Payne, Indianapolis AlleyCats

68.8 percent. The Indianapolis AlleyCats converted 68.8 percent of their D-line possessions into scores in the regular season, a dumbfounding rate that exceeds every team’s O-line minus New York. Nearly 12 percentage points higher than the previous record for single-season D-line conversion rate, the AlleyCats D-line offense has run smoother than any other unit in history in large part due to the contributions of quarterback Xavier Payne. Among all players in the league that played at least 75 percent of their points on D-line, Payne ranks first in completions (223), second in scores (39), and fourth in total yards (2,217). He strikes the right balance of patient, possession-based handling, while still being a fearless deep thrower who can immediately punish opponents in transition. Brett Matzuka will miss this week’s playoff game, so the D-line handling load will fall even more heavily on Payne’s shoulders. Payne was absent for Indy’s first game in Minnesota, and the D-line had their worst outing of the season, converting just 1-of-7 breaks. Safe to say that rate should rise with Payne back at the helm.

Andrew Roy, Minnesota Wind Chill

Leading the team in throwing yards each of the past two seasons, Andrew Roy has been the staple of the Minnesota Wind Chill backfield ever since his first game in the league. No one touches the disc more than Roy in the Wind Chill offense; he’s the go-to distributor whether he’s facilitating drives off the pull or taking care of the disc in the red zone, picking apart defenses and setting up his teammates for success. While hockey assists aren’t always the most telling stat, this is one of those times where a stat seems so geared towards a single player that it’s impossible to ignore. Roy is one of just four players in the league—a group that includes Jack Williams by the way—with over 30 hockey assists and under 30 normal assists this season, and Roy leads this ‘Hockey Assist Kings’ group with 37. His throwing arsenal features some of the most consistent break throws in the game, which often open up the Wind Chill attack and spark offensive flow. Roy went off in his last game against Indy, setting or tying career highs in assists (4), throwing yards (742), and hockey assists (7). He’ll look to again impose his will and lead the Wind Chill to their first playoff win as a franchise.

Travis Dunn, San Diego Growlers

After averaging 2.8 assists per game through his first five games this season, Travis Dunn has been on a tear over his last six, averaging 6.3 assists per game with over 1,500 throwing yards in that span. He’s further opened up the offense as an aggressive continuation thrower, as he’s forcing teams to deal with a full throttle San Diego Growlers attack that also features Jonathan “Goose” Helton and Sean McDougall downfield. Any of these three can be the deep thrower or deep receiver in the continuation space, with Dunn more often than not leading the way in touches and yardage as the team’s primary facilitating cutter. The Growlers offense has hit its stride over the last month, with an O-line conversion rate of 67.4 percent over their last four games. While they’ve still yet to beat the Shred this season, if Dunn can stay hot and build on his previous six-assist, 500-plus yard performance in Salt Lake, the Growlers will have a great shot at advancing to their fourth straight West Division Championship Game.

Joel Clutton, Salt Lake Shred

Tied for second in the league in blocks per game this season (2.0), Joel Clutton will look to do what he’s done throughout 2022 and set the tone for a hungry Salt Lake Shred D-line. No team in the league averages more takeaways per game than the Shred (12.5), and the 6’5” Clutton has played an irreplaceable role in creating break opportunities all season. He moves well for his size and has been able to hunt blocks in both one-on-one and help defense situations; being able to tower over opponents in the deep space has been invaluable for a defense that allows the second-most huck attempts per game, while maintaining the sixth-lowest huck completion percentage allowed. Clutton recorded a career-high four blocks the last time Salt Lake hosted San Diego, which accounted for a third of Salt Lake’s 12 total blocks on the night. Between the Growlers’ all-star cutting core of Dunn, Helton, and McDougall, it’ll be worth watching where Clutton matches up and whether he can stifle San Diego’s newly found continuation flow. 

Jordan Kerr, Salt Lake Shred

On a per-point basis, no player in league history with 200-plus points played in a season has thrown assists at a higher rate than Jordan Kerr has in 2022. He’s recorded an assist on 28.4 percent of his points and really has not slowed down since his opening weekend game against San Diego, where he threw nine in his Shred debut. Upline laser flicks, crossfield back-shoulder touch throws, inside backhand breaks, huge continuation hucks—Kerr has demonstrated a fully established throwing arsenal in his sophomore season, and his receiving ability has been arguably just as troublesome for defenses. One of four guys in the league with 2,500-plus throwing and receiving yards, Kerr is right up there with Ryan Osgar as one of the best in the league at setting up his throws with timely, decisive downfield cuts, serving as the key centerpiece in the offense. So far only Colorado in Week 7 has shown the ability to limit him, which resulted in Salt Lake’s lone home loss of the season. A likely MVP finalist in his first ever playoff game, Kerr will need to rise to the occasion to take down the reigning West Division champions.


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